Tribune News Service
New Delhi, April 7
Against the backdrop of US President Donald Trump warning of retaliation, India has allowed the export of a drug considered vital for the treatment of Covid.
The government today said it would allow the export of the previously contracted shipments of the hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) drug to the US. Trump had recently said he wanted to eliminate all barriers to make the drug available for the treatment of Covid patients in the US, where the death toll has crossed 10,000.
The US President followed up his request to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow export of HCQ with a hint of retaliation if India dragged its feet, saying he would be surprised in case of a negative outcome as New Delhi has good relations with Washington.
India has been preserving HCQ stocks after preliminary findings in the US said it had “significant clearance of the SARS-CoV-2 viral load in the nasopharynx compared with non-treated controls”.
India put up a brave front over its decision to reverse the export ban on HCQ and paracetamol as well as a second decision taken on Monday to also reverse a one-month ban on 13 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) due to a comfortable stock position. Another factor that dictated the shifting of HCQ and paracetamol from the restricted to the licensed list (case-by-case clearance) was India’s obligation to supply it to nations badly affected by the pandemic, especially after PM Modi had taken the lead in the matter at SAARC. Not just Trump but several world leaders in phone calls to PM Modi had requested India for reconsideration, especially on releasing shipments previously contracted by US companies. “India has always maintained that the international community must display strong solidarity and cooperation,” said the MEA in this respect.
The MEA indicated that India would accord top priority to sending paracetamol and HCQ to neighbouring countries that were “dependent on Indian capabilities”, thus indicating that Pakistan might not make the cut.
MEA spokesperson Anurag Shrivastava said the March 3 order banning the export of 13 APIs and formulations and the reversal on Monday was actually a temporary step as part of the obligation of “any responsible government” to ensure that there were adequate domestic stocks of medicines. The curbs were lifted after an assessment confirmed the availability of medicines for all possible contingencies, he said, adding that the issue should not be politicised.
Other sources agreed and said that apart from paracetamol and HCQ, the other 13 APIs and formulations were not directly connected with the treatment of Covid. These were primarily made in Hubei province, the Covid-19 epicentre, whose lockdown prompted the government to impose export restrictions. Now the fear of shortages has receded after Chinese pharma companies got back on track.
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